Friday, September 23, 2005

January 1999 Article in Al Majallah: Iraqi Intelligence Linked to Bin-Ladin

Sometimes reading old press reports truly uncovers gems.

The following article was published in the Arabic language publication Al Majallah in London in January 1999. It sets forth the claim, some two and a half years before the 9/11 attacks, that Iraqi Intelligence was linked to Osama Bin Laden.

This article is well worth reading.

Iraq: Iraqi Intelligence Linked to Bin-Ladin
London Al-Majallah in Arabic 10-16 Jan 99 p 25
Wednesday, January 20, 1999

Unattributed report: "Story of Cooperation Between Iraq and Both Taleban and Bin-Ladin; It Started Before Operation Desert Fox"

Islamabad, exclusive to Al-Majallah -- Hours after Operation Desert Fox against Iraq, a meeting was held in a mosque in Kandahar, birthplace of Taleban movement leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, which was attended by a number of senior Taleban commanders, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of the Jihad movement in Egypt, and Abu-Sa'id al-Masri, a leader of the Afghan Arabs.

According to an Afghan source close to the Taleban, a message signed by Arab and Muslim combatants was sent during the meeting to "the Muslim masses throughout the world, urging them to hit US and British interests and stage demonstrations in protest at the US-British attack on Iraq." And for the first time in Afghanistan's contemporary history since the Red Army's departure and the downfall of Najibollah's rule voices were heard shouting support for Saddam Husayn, which surprised some observers. But the developments that followed the propaganda meeting in a Kandahar mosque revealed the clues behind the relationship between both Mullah Omar's group and Usamah Bin-Ladin's group and Iraqi intelligence.

Al-Majallah's exclusive information indicates that the credit for the establishment of relations between both the Taleban and leaders of the Afghan Arabs and the Iraqi regime goes to the Iraq-based Iranian (opposition) Mojahedin-e Khalq. A delegation was sent to Pakistan from Iraq by Mas'ud Rajavi, leader of the Mojahedin-e Khalq, when the Taleban were in control of Mazar-e Sharif. The delegation delivered a message from Rajavi to Mullah Omar, expressing his willingness to help the movement to confront what he termed "the Iranian regime's conspiracies" against the Afghan people.

According to an Afghan source close to Ahmad Shah Mas'ud, the military commander of the front opposed to the Taleban, Mas'ud's services had detected the arrival of technical and military missions belonging to the Mojahedin-e Khalq from Iraq to the areas under the Talebn's control in south, southeast, and west Afghanistan since the end of August 1998. The source said that Mas'ud Rajavi's men participated effectively in organizing the Taleban's propaganda policy and running their radio aimed against Iran.

They also took part in interrogating the Iranian diplomats and technicians arrested by the Taleban in Mazar-e Sharif and Tashqurghan. However, the link between the Taleban and the Mojahedin-e Khalq remained limited until October 1998. At that time, in particular, an Iraqi intelligence official named Abu-Walid accompanied a Mojahedin-e Khalq delegation to Islamabad on 9 November; the delegation continued its journey to Afghan territory with the help of a retired Pakistan Army official who has close ties with Taleban leader Mullah Omar.

In addition to Mullah Omar, the Iraqi official also met with Usamah Bin-Ladin and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri during his travels with the Mojahedin-e Khalq delegation. Contacts then expanded between Baghdad and the Taleban and also with the leaders of the Afghan Arabs to the extent that an adviser to Taleban leader Mullah Omar met with a high-ranking Iraqi envoy in a Gulf capital in November when it was agreed that the Iraqi and Afghan sides would cooperate in the security, military, and intelligence spheres.

In December, the Iraqi Embassy in Islamabad held a series of meetings between an Iraqi security official and the leaders of a number of Pakistani fundamentalist movements and elements from the Taleban, with the knowledge of Pakistani military intelligence.

According to sources close to Ahmad Shah Mas'ud, a group of Pakistani military intelligence officers who are still under the influence of their former chief General Hamid Gul played an influential role in strengthening the Iraqi regime's links with the Taleban and the Usamah Bin-Ladin group.

The source said that the group in question, which also has trade links with the Zardari family (family of the husband of People's Party leader Benazir Bhutto), which is known for its trade relations with Iraq, facilitated the transit to Afghan territory of Mojahedin-e Khalq elements, Iraqi intelligence men, and some of the military and technical aid paid for by the Iraqi Embassy.

On 21 December a high-ranking Iraqi diplomat normally based in Turkey visited Taleban leader Mullah Omar's residence in Kandahar, then headed for Khowst where he met with Bin-Ladin and al-Zawahiri.

An informed Afghan source has revealed to Al-Majallah that the diplomat in question, whom the Taleban leaders call by his first name, Faruq, and his nom de guerre, Abu-Muhammad, conveyed to the Taleban leader and Usamah Bin-Ladin Iraqi President Saddam Husayn's greetings and his wish to develop cooperation between Baghdad and the Arab and Afghan mujahidin in Afghanistan against "US and British arrogance and the regimes collaborating with Washington and London." Abu-Muhammad affirmed to his Afghan and Arab audience Iraq's willingness to provide financial, logistic, political, and informational support for the Taleban and the Afghan Arabs.

After the Iraqi diplomat Abu-Muhammad's visit to Kandahar, a source close to Ahmad Shah Mas'ud, the leader opposed to the Taleban, revealed that scores of Iraqi military intelligence men, in addition to a number of Mojahedin-e Khalq elements, arrived in Afghan territory in December, and are (now) in Kandahar, Khowst, Bamian, and Velayat-e Nimruz, adjacent to Iranian territory.



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